That’s a wrap, another MLS season in the books. Arguable the best one yet. The MLS has come a long way since the ten team league of 1993. This year did not disappoint with excitement, heart breaking upsets, epic comebacks, stunning new talent, and heated competition. Here are our favorite bits a pieces from the MLS 2015.
Most Stressful Match of the Year:
This one is a no brainer. Without a doubt the most stressful finish to any match this season was Portland Timbers vs Sporting Kansas City’s epic Playoff knockout round shootout. After the full 90 minutes and additional 15 minute halves, the teams found themselves at a 2-2 draw, resulting in a nail biting shootout that would go through both teams entire roster. Sporting KC had the upper hand on numerous occasions but were unable to finish when it mattered most. Portland advanced and would go on to win the whole thing just a couple weeks later.
Watch it all go down:
M.V.D.P. (Most Valuable Designated Player)
This year enticed a wide range of designated players to the league. No doubt additions of football legends like Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo were exciting. After all, it is not often in the US that you get a chance to see a world class great, let alone on your team. But the majority of designated players added to the MLS roster continued to uphold the leagues reputation of being “where legends go to die.” Then there’s Giovinco…
Toronto FC literally owes their season to the Italian stud, Sebastian Giovinco, who joined the team at the peak of his career. Giovinco was wildly successful in Seria A winning two titles with Juventus, as well as being a vital member of the Italian National Team. His choice to move to the MLS isn’t just exciting for Toronto, but exciting for the entire league. Players like Giovinco are what will elevate the MLS to ultimately becoming competitive on a world stage, and I’m sure Toronto isn’t sad about the 38 goals/assists that paved their way to a first ever playoff appearance.
If you saw the tifos from MLS opening weekend then you already knew there was going to be some extraordinary supporter displays this season. There were so many good ones we couldn’t pick just one.
“Indiana” Jermaine Jones: Nice work New England. You can almost hear that theme music (which of course was blaring over the stadium speakers as it was unveiled) just looking at the photo. The quest for the MLS Cup really is the search for the Holy Grail. There is so much awesomeness in this one, but the best part is that this tifo was created in partnership with the Boston Children’s Hospital with the aid of some incredibly talented young artists. Now that is cool.
Timbers Ride the Bull: The Timbers Army is known throughout the league for orchestrating off some of the most extravagant tifos in the league. So naturally in Western Conference Finals against FC Dallas, Portland pulled out all the stops. Let’s face it, just the size of the display alone is pretty damn impressive. There’s banners, a clever play on words, a great deal of coordination with individuals, and obviously a whole lot of time and planning. This is commitment to your club, Bravo.
I mean I suppose eventually they were going to have to give Best Goal of the Year to someone else, but Obafemi Martin’s goal against the Colorado Rapids was nothing short of remarkable. A perfectly timed dance, spinning between defenders while maintaining flawless control of the ball before ripping it into the back of the net. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
It just needs to be said...WE LOVE THE NEWBIES!
Being the new kid in town is tough. It’s almost expected that you will fall flat on your face. This year debuted two new expansions to the league, and they rose above expectations. New York City FC and Orlando City SC both made a hard run in their first season, Orlando City nearly slipping into post season. And perhaps most importantly their supporters let themselves be seen and heard. Both expansions found themselves at the top of the league for attendance, short of Seattle. Orlando at #2 with an average of 32,847 and NYCFC at #3 with 29,016. We are looking forward to watching these clubs flourish.
Honestly we were shocked that this was not voted to MLS’s Save of the Year. This is goaltending at its finest. Not just one, but two incredible saves made by Luis Robles robbed the Timbers of a victory and gave the New York Red Bulls another clean sheet. Simply stunning.
This crown goes to Sporting KC in their April matchup against Philadelphia Union. Going into stoppage time Philadelphia held the lead 2-1 over Kansas, but the match isn’t over till the final whistle. Sporting KC made those extra minutes count scoring the equalizer less than a minute into stoppage time, and following it up with the game winner. FT: SKC 3-2
Do you have a favorite memory from this season? Share it below in the comments
Results of last week’s MLS match-ups certainly stirred up the standings in the Western Conference. In the shuffle LA Galaxy found its way on top of the west, and a Whitecaps defeat, that would have put Vancouver at the head of the race for the Supporters Shield, saw them pass their crown and step down from the number one seat. One thing that has remained constant however is the undeniable dominance of D.C. United over the Eastern conference.
Currently in the lead for the Supporters Shield (by 1 pt. over L.A.), D.C. has enjoyed a comfortable and virtually uncontested reign over the Eastern MLS Conference. In recent weeks the NY Red Bulls have begun to make a steady climb, but they still have a ways to go as they remain 5 points (or at least 2 winning matches) short of catching up to the long standing leader. In fact the five point gap is nothing compared to earlier disparities, at one point D.C. United sat cushioned with 10 pts between itself and the next closest contender in the Eastern Conference and I'd doubt they intend to give up their seat anytime soon.
The battle in the west has been a completely different story. The largest point differential in the top 5 Western Conference clubs is 2 pts, and the others sit with but one mere point between them and the next closest club making every match all the more crucial. Without question the competition is much more heated in the west. Though D.C. currently sits at the top of the overall MLS standings, it does raise the question of whether their command is because they truly are the best team in the MLS at this time, or is there an imbalance of talented clubs depending on the Conference you compete in? Essentially is competing with clubs in the west more difficult that, competition in the east?
Taking a look into the overall standings might give us a better look into things, the top 10 clubs in the MLS in order are as follows:
Things to note:
In past seasons the Western Conference has without a doubt been more successful. It is also worth mentioning that the east is the home of two brand new 2015 expansion clubs that have not had the opportunity to fully get on their feet in the league. Whether there actually are currently advantages to playing in the East over the West remains to be seen, and over time as will all sporting world talent will shift and move tipping the scales for some time in one area before moving to the next, but it is interesting to consider.
For all the talk about Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders’ determination to win the MLS Supporters’ Shield, or for Landon Donovan’s last chance to lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to another MLS Cup before he retires, the team that’s gotten hot in time for the MLS Playoffs is actually the New York Red Bulls, led by Thierry Henry and his world class technical abilities.
Henry came to New York several years ago to great aplomb, but much to his disappointment has yet to claim a title in this league. He did help the Red Bulls to a Supporters’ Shield trophy last season, but they fell in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, the team has taken a different path. An up and down season resulted in a 4th place finish in the Eastern Conference and an appearance in the wildcard round. The Red Bulls defeated the reigning MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City, and have now earned a two-goal advantage in the Conference Semifinal matchup against top-seeded D.C. United.
But while Thierry Henry is the Red Bulls’ most famous character, the chief goal scorer all season long has been Bradley Wright-Phillips, who now has 3 goals in 2 games in these playoffs. During the regular season Wright-Phillips led the entire MLS in goals by quite a large margin, netting 27 times!
And in many ways, this is the type of player that Thierry Henry thrives with. In his glorious Arsenal days he worked alongside Dennis Bergkamp, one of Holland’s finest legendary strikers. Now he supports Wright-Phillips, and the successful working relationship has been evident in the early goings of the playoffs, with Henry setting up goals with quality passes. His cheeky back-heel assist was an absolute gem from the Frenchman.
But the MLS Cup is still a long ways away, and the New York Red Bulls certainly have their work cut out for them. Should they navigate through D.C. United (which looks likely given their two-goal advantage, they would probably face the New England Revolution before the final, likely to be against either the Galaxy or Sounders).
To me, an MLS Cup against the Galaxy would be a monumental occasion given the impending retirement of Donovan and Henry’s own uncertain future. He may be leaving the game soon too at age 37. While the American hero would likely get most of the attention, I could see Henry having the final say. His supporting cast is finally capable of bringing home a title, and he is hitting top form during this playoff run.
While any American would certainly like to see Donovan retire from soccer on top, Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls have the opportunity to play the spoiler role to perfection. Henry’s career accolades are the stuff of legends and include a World Cup title with France in 1998 as well as a EURO title in 2000. He has played on the grandest of stages and performed. While Donovan certainly has had his own share of success as well, the pure class of Henry and his talented teammates Bradley Wright-Phillips and Tim Cahill might just snatch the MLS Cup for New York! Either way, it’s shaping up to be an enthralling end to the 2014 MLS season.